David Heinemeier Hansson

May 24, 2024

Linux as the new developer default at 37signals

For over twenty years, the Mac was the default at 37signals. For designers, programmers, support, and everyone else. That mono culture had some clear advantages, like being able to run Kandji and macOS-specific setup scripts. But it certainly also had its disadvantages, like dealing with Apple's awful reliability years, and being cut off from seeing how half our Basecamp customer base saw by default (since they're on Windows!). Either way, it's over. Apple is no longer the exclusive default at 37signals. Going forward, we're working to make Linux the default for developers and system operators (and welcoming Windows back in the mix for accounting/marketing). 

I've personally been having a blast over the last few months digging deeper and deeper into the Linux rabbit hole, and it's been a delight discovering just how good its become as developer platform. Not one without its flaws, obviously, but an incredible proposition none the less.

This has left me with little interest in going back to a commercial operating system as a daily development driver. My entire career has been spent in the service and sun of open source, both as a contributor and a beneficiary, and closing the loop with a desktop operating system is very satisfying.

Default doesn't mean edict, though. First of all, we have a great mobile team that simply needs to be on Apple hardware to develop for Apple platforms. That's not changing. Neither is the fact that some people will have a strong personal preference to stick with the Mac. Totally fine too.

But defaults still matter. Along with assumptions about what's supported and how well. And changing our default to Linux sets a new tone, as well as affords us the institutional weight to support companies like Framework with our business. I love voting with my dollars for more of a future I'd like to see, and Framework represents just that.

The end result will be a company that has people running Mac, Windows, and Linux. Which is great from both the perspective of living how your customers do, but also escaping the trapped feeling of a mono culture built around an Apple that we, and many other developers, are increasingly at odds with

None of this has to be binary. Hate/love. Yes/no. Sure, Apple has evolved into a company that's much harder to recommend for people who care about the future of computing, but they still make great hardware, and the M-chip revolution will continue to benefit anyone who likes computers.

So I haven't crushed my MacBook in defiance. We won't be wholesaling out our existing fleet of Apple machines either. But going forward, we'll spend more of our money and attention on platforms that align better with the independence and freedom we so cherish in all other aspects of our business.

The year of Linux on the desktop. Who would have thought!


About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.